Many people who are in a troubled relationship find it quite hard when it comes down to the breakup and the situation of having to stay away from each other. At times changing location might not help in anything but just amount to change of residence that is it! What about getting over a breakup when you live together.
No sugar coating here. If you’re about to navigate a breakup while cohabiting, it will be one of the toughest things you live through. Spoiler alert though — you will live through it! You’ve demonstrated a high level of commitment by living together, and yet there isn’t the legality of a divorce decree to chart your way forward.
A handful of states, however, do recognize common law marriage, so be sure you’re clear on the legal implications and splitting of assets if those arrangements pertain to your situation. And if children are in the picture, you will want to definitely look to a family mediator to assist with custody planning and financial agreements.
A Pew Research study found that roughly half of the population living with an unmarried partner is under 35, so unfortunately, chances are good that you or a friend could go through this type of breakup. While you ideally would have had a cohabitation agreement, most of us aren’t naturally inclined to plan for the ending at the beginning. Here are a few steps to take when you’ve decided to move on.
1. Hold logistic conversations separate from the relationship conversation
It can be tempting to lead a breakup conversation with a dramatic announcement that you’re moving out. While the question of who is going where will naturally surface during a breakup conversation, be sure to do yourself and your partner the service of having your first few discussions be about the relationship. Yes, emotions will be running high. You might find that you have to take a break and come back to the discussion a few different times.
When you can get to a place past the initial shock of the breakup, ask your partner to join you in setting aside time to specifically discuss logistics. If you’re driving the break up decision, then take the high road by initiating logistics planning where possible. This can be as simple as saying you’re prepared to stay with friends or family for a few days while you start to sort through details.
2. Set a firm move-out date
Make this decision as soon as possible, because it will assist you in keeping momentum for all of your other decisions. Know that if you’re both on the lease, you’re responsible for the rent no matter where you live. This means that you may need to decide which of you is in a better position to assume the entirety of the lease or mortgage payment as one of you moves out. It may also mean that one of you decides to assist the other with the cost of setting up a small residence elsewhere and you both split the entirety of living expenses for your original residence.
Involve your landlord here. This isn’t the first time they’ve heard of a cohabiting breakup, and they may have options ranging from a lease break fee to being willing to allow a tenant sublet. Be aware that a landlord will have to approve a new tenant moving in and taking over the lease with you or your ex (i.e., if you or your partner want to find new roommates). Spend some time mapping out the costs financially and emotionally of each option. For example, while a lease break fee might be expensive, you both may decide it’s worth the peace of mind. And compared to setting up two residences that you’re jointly funding, it could even be cheaper.
3. Respect your new ideas of space
Regardless of how you square who is ultimately moving where, there will be some stretch of time you’ll be living together broken up. Yikes. Set up as much structured time for sharing the space as possible. Address things like who will be sleeping where and how chores will be handled. It can be easy in this stage to assume the same routine, like your partner taking on nightly dishwasher duty, but remaining in those relationship habits isn’t healthy for either of you.
Your space is now going to become a little more “roommate style,” so treat it as such. Talk through specific days of the week that you or your partner could have friends over, so that the other person can plan to be out. It takes a village to get over a tough breakup, but do your best to honor each other’s own private time in the house to grieve and process.
4. Hold detailed money conversations
If this feels complicated, you may consider family mediation. It’s not just for married couples or those with children! Having an objective third party help you navigate the right questions to ask each other and be a voice of reason during an emotional time can be helpful. Most cohabiting couples would only need a couple of sessions to square away finances and logistics.
Money discussions involve everything from potentially splitting bank accounts to possibly buying out part of a major home item that you’d like to hang on to (Hello flat screen!). Are you on your partner’s health insurance? Are they your emergency point of contact and can they make medical decisions for you? Are they the beneficiary of any insurance policies? All of these questions are things to talk through and quickly update.